Photo: Tickety Boo Photography
Anybody who grew up in the 1980's listening to hard rock music no doubt was a huge fan of Tesla. The hard driving, guitar-driven act burst onto the scene with 1986's Mechanical Resonance and soon thereafter found themselves sharing major stages around the world with David Lee Roth, Def Leppard, Poison and others.
After taking a brief hiatus from 1994 to 1999 the band reunited in 2000 and have since re-established themselves as one of rock and rolls premier iconic bands.
Fresh off the release of their latest project Forever More, the newest member of Tesla, guitarist Dave Rude, recently took a break from his busy schedule to chat with Epiphone's Don Mitchell about the band, the new project and how MySpace impacted his life with Tesla!
EPI: Tell me about your musical background and upbringing.
DAVE: I wanted to play the guitar and sing since before I could even talk. My parents had the record player on most of the time in our house when I was little and my mom had an acoustic guitar lying around that she didn't play much, so I would bang around on it when I was very young. They even have pictures of me when I was 2 years old with this cutting board that had a handle on it and was kind of shaped like a guitar. I had wrapped rubber bands around it for strings so I could play it. I'm a lifer.
EPI: That is hilarious! At what point did you start playing a "real" guitar?
DAVE: I begged my Mom for lessons when I was 5 but she thought I was too young and that I would become frustrated and quit. I'm thankful for that now because she was probably right! But finally, right after my ninth birthday, she gave me the okay for private lessons and I was ecstatic. Every detail of that first guitar lesson and the excitement it brought is burned into my memory forever.
EPI: Were there any bands or artists in particular that initially grabbed your attention or influenced your musical journey?
DAVE: Although I loved all the standard rock fare like the Beatles, the Stones, and U2, I'd say my biggest influence, as a kid was Michael Jackson. When I was five my Dad gave me a copy of Thriller and I was in seventh heaven. It was the coolest thing I'd ever heard and I still love that album to this day. A year or two after that I got the Purple Rain Soundtrack by Prince, which also kicked my a**. Those two records in particular really influenced me a lot to learn guitar as well as learn how to sing.
EPI: Fast forward a few years and you are a member of a hugely popular rock band.
How did you hook up with and eventually become a member of Tesla? I heard a rumor that the band found you via MySpace. Is that true?
DAVE: Yeah, I joined Tesla through MySpace, of all places. How's that for unexpected! I had no connection to the members of Tesla whatsoever and one day after I had been out walking dogs (one of my several concurrent, part-time, working musician jobs) I checked the MySpace profile for my band, the Dave Rude Band, and there was a message from Frank Hannon. I was blown away because I had been a big fan of his and of Tesla's. Frank said he was looking for a second guitarist for a two-week tour with his solo band, the Frank Hannon Band, in the Southern United States and I thought, Wow... how cool would it be to jam with Frank Hannon for a couple of weeks! 4 days later I was in Sacramento, sitting in on a couple classic rock covers with the Frank Hannon Band at a club called The Boardwalk. We hung out before the show and that's when he told me that he was actually looking for someone for Tesla. My jaw hit the floor. I was flattered and intimidated but at the same time it felt strikingly natural. My gut was really telling me it was the right thing to do so it was a pretty quick and easy decision to make. A month later we started the Tesla Summer Jam 2006 Tour and the rest is history!
EPI: That's the kind of story a musician dreams of! One of your favorite bands that you grow up listening to accidentally finds you on MySpace and the next thing you know, you are on the road playing with them!
DAVE: I'd call it a surreal honor. It's been over three years now, so I've adjusted to it but every now and again I still think, "Holy hell! I'm in f***** Tesla!" I grew up listening to the band and watching their live acoustic home video and now they're my friends and band mates. There's not a day that goes by that I don't thank my lucky stars for this honor and opportunity.
EPI: Speaking of opportunity... Last year you guys were a big part of the benefit concert for the victims of The Station nightclub fire. What was that experience like?
DAVE: The Station Fire Family Fund benefit show in 2008 was a great experience. We were so happy to be able to help out the victims of the fire and their families. Anytime you can use your career to help those in need, it's a blessing. The show was a blast too! I got to see a bunch of great musicians from all sorts of genres. John Rich was there, Gretchen Wilson, the wrestler Mick Foley, Boston, Twisted Sister, Whiskey Falls, and many more. I even got to share a mic with Aaron Lewis of Staind when Twisted Sister brought all the artists up to sing an encore of We're Not Gonna Take It. It was an unforgettable night and it was great to meet a lot of the survivors and their friends and families. Putting a face on the tragedy was very heavy. It's a lot more impersonal when you just hear about something on the news but we did a two hour meet and greet with survivors and their loved ones and it was one of the most moving things I've ever experienced.
EPI: The band's new project Forever More was released in October. What exactly was
your role and what was the experience like?
DAVE: We wrote the record together with our producer, Terry Thomas, in Brian Wheat's studio in Sacramento. It was a true collaboration and I wrote a lot of the music on the album. The guys encouraged me to bring in ideas, which was great, because I wasn't sure what it was going to be like as the "new guy" writing songs with a band that had been around for over 20 years. But they were excited to hear what I could bring to the table and it was a very open, creative environment.
EPI: Do you have a favorite cut on Forever More?
DAVE: It's hard to pick a favorite, but I really like the ballad, Fallin' Apart. Brian and I wrote the bulk of that song in 2 minutes and it reminds me of how quickly and freely good ideas can come. Plus the lyrics and vocals Jeff wrote are timeless.
EPI: Tell me about the Dave Rude Band.
DAVE: We're a hard rock power trio with a modern spin on classic rock influences. Kind of like the Foo Fighters meet Buckcherry. Marco Guzman plays bass, Josh Schmidt plays drums and I sing and play guitar. We're from Oakland so we play a lot of West Coast dates right now, but we're looking for a record label so we can get out and tour the rest of the world. Our debut EP is available on iTunes, CDBaby, and our Myspace page (www.myspace.com/daverudeband) along with T-shirts and other merchandise.
EPI: I know that you just picked up an Epiphone Sheraton-II. What is it you like about that particular guitar?
DAVE: I love my Epiphone Sheraton-II! It sounds huge and feels great. Even at loud volumes, with lots of gain, it doesn't have the feedback problem often associated with semi-hollow-body guitars. The fretboard is easy to play, but still gives a little bit of a fight, which is how I like it. And it looks amazing! What a beautiful guitar!
EPI: Any other Epi's in your arsenal?
DAVE: With Tesla I use an Epiphone Alleykat that I bought about 6 years ago and love to death. I use it on all our songs that require DADGAD tuning, like Heaven's Trail (No Way Out), which we do at every show. I also used it recording the new album Forever More. I love the way a semi-hollow body sounds through a big, distorted Marshall... you know, that cool Izzy Stradlin tone. That's why I started looking at the Sheraton-II. It's a different animal from the Alleykat, but what a beast it is! It complements the Gibsons I play in the rest of the set perfectly. Three words define the Epiphone Sheraton-II sound to me: huge and clear.
EPI: I was just looking at www.teslatheband.com and your spring looks very busy.
DAVE: We're lucky enough to be able to tour all over the world and play to appreciative crowds in every country. This spring we'll be out in the US again, and in the summer it's over to Europe for festivals and club dates. Then more US shows in the summer and fall. We're also working on another Japan/Australia run.
EPI: What can we expect from a Tesla show this year?
DAVE: In short, you can expect a long, kicka**, guitar-filled show with all your favorite Tesla classics, a few vault tracks, and a whole lotta new material off our new album, Forever More!!!